34 The Southeast Drought and Wildfires of 2016: How It Developed and What We Learned

Monday, 8 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Pamela N. Knox, The Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA; and C. E. Konrad and C. E. Konrad

An intense drought developed across interior portions of the Southeast U. S. in 2016 causing major impacts on several major sectors of the regional economy, including agriculture, forestry and tourism. Extremely dry conditions shut off growth of pastures needed for animal feed just as winter hay supplies were exhausted, causing severe hardship to livestock producers who were forced to sell their cattle because little feed was available. The rapid development of the drought at peak corn season decimated pollination and many farmers were forced to chop up corn plants for animal feed. The heat and long dry spell associated with the drought in forested areas resulted in accumulation of leaf litter and dry wood that provided fuel for a series of large wildfires that threatened many areas in mountainous areas and caused significant damage to Gatlinburg, TN, and surrounding tourist areas as well as reducing air quality in areas downwind of the fires. Water supplies were also affected by the lack of rainfall, resulting in drops of up to eleven feet to Lake Lanier, the reservoir that provides water supplies to Atlanta, and to other water sources in the region. This poster will describe the evolution of the drought over time, the environmental and economic impacts of the drought, and will provide some lessons learned in how to respond to widespread and quick-developing drought conditions.
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